The day started at some ungodly hour as I stumbled out of bed and into some “professional” clothing. Thankfully, I love getting dressed up. I got to the conference early, I’m always afraid I’m going to miss something important. I got there just in time for the water and granola bars. I quickly got my information packet and spied the rest of the class in the back of the room. I had completely forgotten what seminars I had actually signed up for, so anything would be fine, but I was put into two that seemed interesting. Session one was, Students with Special Needs: What You See Isn’t Always What You Get with Heather Dubrule. For session two: Get Up Out of Your Seat!: The importance of Teaching Concepts to Young Learners through Music and Movement with Michelle Nonis and Jessica Borges.
After the opening introductions Donna and I walked over to Alger Hall, somewhere we both had only been to once before for orientation. The room was set up with a power point and sheets of papers that looked like worksheets for everyone to grab. I’m not really a fan of power points, I find them usually boring and uninformative, so I was not exactly excited for this presentation. Thankfully, it was on something near and dear to my heart. She began with an exercise by showing a handful of students’ pictures and had given us a list of disabilities something similar to a matching game. Donna and I looked at each other in agreement; there was no way to tell. I felt like if I was to try it would be stereotyping the child and would be unfair. We discussed how, yes, there is no way to tell what children have what problems.
The session continued with the power point and some other exercises. The one that really stuck with me had to do with de-coding. We were given a paragraph with almost all the words spelled wrong, and at the top was a word box, with the rules to figuring out how to fix the words. We were given five minutes to figure out the paragraph. At the end, I barely had gotten through the first sentence. She explained that this is how some children with learning disabilities saw their work; only without the word box we had been given. It was really eye-opening, and I immediately thought of Lisa Delpit, and how it was quite literally the rules and codes of power, and these children don’t have the proper tools to succeed. Heather Dubrule went on to discuss the importance of individual student and giving attention to the special needs students. This was quite obvious to me already, I was waiting for the key, the big hint on how to do so, but it never came. I asked, “These children definitely need special attention from us, the teacher, but how can I do this with a class of 25 students?” She didn’t have an answer. So I left, with more questions than answers.
The next stop was Henry Banyard School. I was slightly discouraged by the first seminar, but went in with high hopes. We started with again another power point, but this one had videos, and spots for us to answer questions. They then gave us a small break, and played a silly song for everyone to dance too. After we were done they explained that the small dance break was to wake us up, and honestly, it worked. It was a perfect example of what they were trying to get across. We were then shown videos of children dancing and singing educational meanings, even songs the teachers themselves had written to popular songs. They then told us it was our turn, we had ten minutes to write our own songs in groups, and with some starter ideas we were off. Some were informational, some out of key, and some just silly, but everyone understood the point. We were then given the names of some artists that have purely educational songs for kids, lesson ideas, and so much more. I was given a much better understanding of using music in the classroom and how to go about it, I left with so much information, and I could probably write my own song to this day.
After a mediocre Donavan lunch the keynote speaker, Dr. Dennis Shirley, was introduced. I was very excited; the topic of Mindful Teaching was very intriguing. Yet again, I had more questions than answers. I pulled a few useful ideas from the lecture, but overall, only specifically remember his trip to India (and yes, I had actually taken notes). I also kept thinking of how his topic of being mindful to different races and sexes and so on, actually didn’t apply to him, him the upper-class, white, male. It was then that Beckah and Chris pointed out the picture above him of the children and the white boy in the middle with all the focus on him. I was very disappointed with the entire lecture, and didn’t find him to be mindful to his audience, I feel like he was trying to sell his book and not trying to educate future teachers.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad experience, the second session was awesome, and I got free lunch. I’d definitely go back next year to see what has changed, and hopefully be able to take more from the conference.